Posted on Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Life Groomed New Germanna College Board Chair Perfectly For His Role

Submitted by Mike Zitz-Beckham, public information officer, Germanna Community College

In a sense, William E. Thomas has spent his whole life preparing to become the chair of the Germanna Community College Board.

A Culpepper County resident, Thomas took over the mantle from Stafford County resident Cathy Washington in July.

Few know the Germanna service region as well as he does.

“I’m proud of the fact that I have lived in the Germanna region all of my life except when I was in college at Virginia Tech and in the U.S. Army,” he says.

Not just in the region–all around it. Germanna serves the city of Fredericksburg and the counties of Culpeper, Orange, Madison, King George, Stafford, Spotsylvania and Caroline.

He was born in Fredericksburg and grew up on a family dairy farm in Spotsylvania.

Thomas was chatting with Fredericksburg Mayor Mary Katherine Greenlaw at the June opening of Germanna’s Fredericksburg Center for Advanced Technology in Central Park. The mayor asked where his roots were and he said his mother lived on Prince Edward Street in Fredericksburg.

“Where?” the mayor asked.

When he told her the address, she exclaimed, “I lived right across the street!”

Thomas went to Spotsylvania schools. The year he graduated from Virginia Tech, his family sold the farm in Spotsylvania and moved to Orange County. He moved from there to take a job working as assistant manager of a store in Culpeper in 1971. He then began working as a Virginia Cooperative Extension agent in Madison. Part of that job involved a 4-H youth development education program.

When he retired he took classes at Germanna’s Locust Grove and Fredericksburg Area campuses.

“So when I had the chance to be on the board, I thought, ‘OK, I’ve been a student and I know it works. Kind of neat.”

He was also, like many Germanna students, the first member of his family to go to college, so he understands that experience well.

Thomas says he enjoys being an ambassador and advocate for Germanna and he never misses an event honoring students or faculty.

Thomas says community colleges are “not often thought of as the first choice for people who are going to get a four-year degree,” but that affordability (tuition is often one-third that of a four-year school) and personal attention from faculty make it a smart choice as a first choice to begin higher education. “People’s eyes pop when they realize they can save money, then transfer to the four-year college,” he observed. “Germanna and community colleges in general are a really good option for everyone and a really good way to go.”

He said he’s particularly impressed with Germanna’s Student Success Coach program, the work GCC does helping veterans make the sometimes difficult transition from the military to civilian life and good careers, with the Great Expectations program that helps young people aging out of the foster care system adjust to being on their own and the way Germanna helps students with disabilities succeed.

He said he’s proud that he and other Germanna Community College Board members played a major role in bringing new GCC President Janet Gullickson here. He believes the new energy she brings will push Germanna forward to the expansion and modernization of campuses and centers in Locust Grove, Stafford, Culpeper and Spotsylvania.

Thomas says he loves his role at the college.

“I’m a big believer in service.”'

Laura Osberger

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